Electric cars sure pollute the environment


Electric cars sure pollute – and their batteries are expected to be one of the most significant new sources of pollution

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that it expects 145 million electric vehicles (EVs) worldwide by 2030. the number could rise even higher - up to 230 million - and that does not include Two-wheeled and three-wheeled vehicles.

This is a large number of new cars to reach the global market. Also... lots of batteries.

Although electric vehicles do not release carbon dioxide during use, their production is as harmful to the environment as conventional cars, while recycling lithium-ion batteries poses unique challenges.

Lithium-ion batteries are more extensive and take up more space than their conventional counterparts, lead-acid batteries. To make matters worse, it is highly flammable and even explosive if improperly disassembled.

In the next 10 to 15 years, there will be millions of obsolete electric vehicles worldwide; By then, recycling plants should be ready to take all those batteries, recover parts and precious metals, and properly dispose of the waste. Currently, only 5% of all Li-ion batteries are recycled.

If no action is taken, battery waste could become a massive problem for the auto industry and the environment.

How big? If the average weight of a car battery pack were 550 pounds, 100 million cars would produce about 55 billion pounds — 28 million tons — of battery waste that would have to be recycled. We can expect a large part of this waste to accumulate by 2040 if the predictions of the International Energy Agency are partially correct.

Water Pollution

Although Li-ion batteries are classified by the federal government as non-hazardous waste and are safe for disposal in the regular municipal waste stream, several studies have shown that they can contaminate water. Nowadays, much of the recycling process is considered "informal" - it is often done in less developed rural areas without proper supervision or preventive measures.

With this type of process, there is a high probability of lithium leakage into the water supply. A similar situation occurs in highly developed areas where people improperly dispose of consumer electronics, often not powered by Li-ion batteries. Finally, it is not only lithium that can contaminate soil and groundwater. The nickel, cobalt, manganese, and other metals in electric car batteries pose a more significant threat than lithium to both human life and the ecosystem.

Most of the materials in electric car batteries can be recycled and used, which is an economic argument for extraction; Extracting materials, especially metals, cobalt, and nickel, from the old battery housing for reuse in a new batch is a procedure that can significantly reduce manufacturing costs. This is because approximately 50% of the battery cost comes from those metals alone.

Interestingly, one method of extracting metals from batteries - smelting - is identical to the technique of extracting metals from ores but without the additional environmental damage that comes with mining.

So why not recycle more batteries? The reason is that recycling plants don't get much for their scrap - about $100 a ton. The logistical costs associated with collecting, sorting, and transporting it have largely replaced it.

Finally, we would need to triple the current production rates for lithium, graphite, nickel, and manganese to make enough batteries. A strict recycling system is necessary to meet the increasing demand for these materials and reduce the environmental damage caused by mining.

Europe's response

As with many other things, the EU wants to tackle the problem with regulation. The proposed legislation seeks to increase the regulatory burden on battery manufacturers, producers, importers, and distributors who take multiple steps to ensure compliance.

The document sets out critical new requirements covering the manufacture, design, labeling, collection, and recycling of all types of batteries throughout the battery life cycle. It further states: "These measures have the potential to have a significant impact on the battery market in the European Union, improving sustainability, circularity, and transparency across the product value chain."

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